The Lady Vanishes

Movie Information

In Brief: Reasonably efficient — but pretty unnecessary — remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 classic, the 1979 The Lady Vanishes boasts a good performance from Cybill Shepherd, some nice supporting turns and extremely good process work to give the illusion of being on a moving train. On the other hand, Elliott Gould has no business being in a period piece, and the almost exact duplication of the Hitchcock film's screenplay makes it all pretty superfluous. The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Lady Vanishes Sunday, Sept. 21, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
Genre: Thriller
Director: Anthony Page
Starring: Elliott Gould, Cybill Shepherd, Angela Lansbury, Herbert Lom, Arthur Lowe, Ian Carmichael
Rated: PG



I’d always avoided — more passively than actively — the 1979 remake of The Lady Vanishes from TV director (and it shows) Anthony Page. I mean, what were the chances that it would even come close to the 1938 Hitchcock classic? The truth is, of course, that it is barely in the same universe — even while using virtually same script. That said, it’s not horrible — just rather pointless. I mean, why settle for an efficient copy when you can easily have the original? Well, to judge by some of the user “reviews” on the IMDb, the draw for some is Angela Lansbury. I’m afraid that’s not a draw for me. I’ll take Dame May Whitty in the original. Of course, there are those who will like it because it’s in color, but let’s not talk about them.




The best thing in it is easily Cybill Shepherd taking over for Margaret Lockwood. Anyone who’s seen Peter Bogdanovich’s At Long Last Love (1975) — no matter what they think of it — knows that Shepherd was made to wear slinky 1930s fashions, and this film works so that she wears the same white silk gown for most of its length. She’s also at home with 1930s dialogue and the way it’s delivered — something she probably learned from her years with Bogdanovich. (You just know he inundated her with Ernst Lubitsch movies.) She even pulls off the ditzy dame shtick to the point where you can believe she can’t tell a sheep from a cow. (Neither I guess could the property department, since they replaced the calf in the basket from the original to a pair of sheep here.) While some of the supporting cast are good, others are…well, not so good. Lansbury is a problem for me in general, because she always seems to be playing to the last row of the upper balcony. And the less said about Elliott Gould as a wisecracking 1930s character, the better.




The changes to the original screenplay are minimal. The bad guys are no longer from some unnamed country and are here presented as Nazis. The thriller aspect is strangely muted in the early scenes. Shepherd’s blow on the head comes from falling off a table (while doing an ill-advised Hitler impression) and not from a flower-box aimed at Miss Froy. Perhaps the biggest change is downplaying role of the bogus nun (Madlena Nedeva), this was probably done to give Shepherd something more active to do at the end. It’s all pretty much there, but the snap, the pace, the creativity — well, they’re on another train that left the station 41 years earlier.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Lady Vanishes Sunday, Sept. 21, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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2 thoughts on “The Lady Vanishes

  1. Chip Kaufmann

    Although I concur with your assessment of her performance, Angela Lansbury doesn’t bother me as much as she does you. On the other hand Elliot Gould, displaying the range of Arnold Schwarzenegger (minus the accent which might have helped), does. Still there is Cybill Shepherd (her dress reportedly got her the job on MOONLIGHTING) and any film featuring Herbert Lom, Arthur Lowe and Vladek Sheybal is worth a look. Then there’s the added bonus of the beautiful Austrian countryside minus Julie Andrews. If Michael Carreras really thought this film was going to save Hammer, it’s no wonder they went under. For the record, this was the company’s last movie. The new Hammer doesn’t count.

  2. Ken Hanke

    It’s not just Gould’s performance, he looks wrong. On the other hand, I can think of lots of movies not worth sitting through with Lom and Lowe. Sheybal, you may have something there, but he’s not given much to do. The scenery…well…I can see similar scenery in lots of movies sans L’Andrews. And no, the new Hammer most certainly doesn’t count.

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